Shiur #16: Akira and Hanacha

  • Rav Moshe Taragin

Talmudic Methodology
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Shiur #16: Akira and Hanacha

by Rav Moshe Taragin

A previous shiur probed the nature of the issur of hotza'a (relocating items from private domains to public ones) on Shabbat. As the activity imposes no appreciable change upon the item, it may be aptly defined as an 'inferior melakha,' a status yielding notable halakhic consequences. Alternatively, we might claim that by prohibiting this act, the Torah is effectively recognizing change in location as a significant change in the item and classifying hotza'a as a typical melakha. Perhaps we require a special pasuk to notify us that location change is consequential. Unlike other melakhot, whose impact is obvious and evident, hotza'a does not impart a physical change. We would not have intuited this melakha by virtue of its having been performed in the mishkan, because we only derive 'significant' melakhot which alter a given item. However, AFTER a specific pasuk was dedicated to hotza'a, we might concede that it, too, produces a significant halakhic change, and hence hotza'a should, indeed, be classified as a conventional melakha.

This issue may prompt an interesting, related question. Anatomically, hotza'a is structured upon two components: the bookends of removal and redeposit, which frame the actual transport. The melakha begins with an item's physical removal from reshut ha-yachid (akira), continues with the act of movement across the boundary between reshut ha-yachid and reshut ha-rabim (hilukh), and concludes with the item's re-placement in reshut ha-rabim (hanacha). Is hotza'a essentially reduced to akira and hanacha, conditioned upon the re-depositing occurring in reshut ha-rabim? For this contingency to be met, a person must walk to a new location to enable deposit elsewhere. However, the activity of walking is peripheral to the actual melakha, which consists solely of removal and redeposit. Or, is the act of walking through the boundary itself the basis of the melakha, and akira and hanacha merely frame THAT act, commencing and terminating it with a distinct launch and a discernible terminus? This issue, regarding the true anatomy of hotza'a (which yields multiple halakhic issues), in many ways stems from the previous discussion. If hotza'a is classified as 'conventional' because its geographic change is of import, perhaps the activities which directly impart that change (akira from reshut ha-yachid, and hanacha in reshut ha-rabim) are to be seen as primary, and the act of walking as tangential. If, however, hotza'a remains an inferior melakha because it imparts no considerable change, then perhaps the removal and deposit are less crucial, but the actual movement across the boundary entails the principal melakha. Hotza'a does not dictate change, and the bookends of akira and hanacha, which are the greatest agents of 'change,' are not consequential.

To assess this theory, we should inspect several gemarot which address a number of interesting varieties of akira and hanacha. Perhaps the most compelling 'proof' concerns a gemara which considered entirely eliminating the need for a formal akira. The gemara in Shabbat (3a) questions a situation in which someone loaded items on another's back and the second individual removed the items into reshut ha-rabim. Even though no formal removal occurred, perhaps the 'metered' movements should constitute an akira. Perhaps - as the gemara questions - akirat gufu ke-akirat chefetz mi-mekomo dami - moving one's body is comparable to moving an item. What the gemara might really be addressing is the role of akira (and, by extension, hanacha – see Tosafot 3a, s.v. akirat). If akira entails the essence of hotza'a, perhaps we could not dispense with it in our scenario. However, if akira merely signals the launch of the hotza'a process, then perhaps in our situation, the process is framed by the start of motion occurring subsequent to the loading of goods, and hotza'a can begin without a formal akira.

A second example pertains to a situation where an item has not yet landed. Rabbi Akiva developed a landmark opinion which stated that 'keluta ke-mi she-huncha dami' – meaning, at least for Shabbat purposes, once a thrown item reaches the airspace of a given domain, it is considered as having landed and the melakha has culminated. He does not require actual placement on the ground of the intended reshut. One way of understanding Rabbi Akiva is to assume that he defined airspace as an extension of the ground, such that items passing through airspace are considered grounded (see Methodology Shiur #14 for an elaboration of this theme). Alternatively, Rabbi Akiva may not have been reorienting spatial definitions, but rather informing us that hotza'a does not require a physical deposit. Once movement across boundaries has occurred, a melakha has been violated, independent of actual landing. Once an item is associated with the next reshut, the melakha has been executed. Perhaps Rabbi Akiva's position represents a corollary to the previous example of akirat gufo. If we decide (as the gemara does) that actual akira is unnecessary, perhaps actual hanacha is unnecessary, as well. Of course, Rabbi Akiva extends the logic to a far greater extent, as one could have easily argued on behalf of virtual akira but real hanacha. In the previous scenario, the real and physical akira performed by the non-carrier launches the act, whereas in Rabbi Akiva's situation, no actual landing has occurred. However, once the role of akira and hanacha is decentralized, recognizing within the actual transport the essence of the issur, we can easily detect the common logic between the gemara's example of akirat gufo and Rabbi Akiva's example of keluta.

A more moderate application of Rabbi Akiva's principle might be displayed by a gemara in Shabbat (5a), which claims that once an item is within three tefachim of the ground, hanacha has occurred. The gemara addresses a situation in which a person physically received an item by hand, but his hand was not large enough to constitute a halakhic hanacha (four-by-four tefachim). Even though physical receipt occurred, halakhic hanacha hasn't. Yet, the gemara claims that if the receiving hand was positioned within three tefachim of the ground, it does constitute hanacha, since it is so proximate to the ground, which is at least four by four. Typically, areas less than three tefachim long are subject to the principle of 'lavud' – a spatial rule delivered to Moshe at Har Sinai which determines that halakha ignores spaces of less than three tefachim. One may have reasoned that the same rule is in effect in this gemara: if a person's hand is placed within three tefachim of the ground, lavud dictates that the hand is considered lying on the ground (by eliminating the empty space), and thus a platform of four-by-four (the ground with a hand on top) has participated in a hanacha. However, the gemara does not explicitly mention the term lavud (as it typically does when applying the principle), raising some doubt as to whether the rule is actually in effect. Furthermore, one may question the applicability of lavud in this context, where the open space between the item and the ground is disrupted by the depositing person's hand. In fact, a very famous dispute between Rashi and many other Rishonim may have surrounded this issue. Rashi claimed that kinyan hagbaha (attempting to acquire ownership through the symbolic act of lifting) must be performed beyond a three-tefach area above the ground. Presumably, if an item is not lifted higher than three tefachim, lavud determines that the item is still placed on the ground, nullifying the effects of hagbaha. Others disagreed with Rashi, in part claiming that lavud does not apply to occupied spaces. If a person's hand grasping the item occupies the three-tefach area, we may not consider it adjacent to the land . If so, then lavud should not applin our Gemara (Shabbat 5a), thus challenging us to explain the waiving of the four-by-four clause when the depositing hand is within three tefachim of the ground. Once lavud cannot explain this halakha, some other basis for this extraordinary ruling must be provided.

Perhaps the gemara is suggesting a different logic. As we discussed, Rabbi Akiva believed that once an item enters an airspace, it is considered 'grounded' – even before actually landing. This position is quite extreme, and might not be universally adopted (see Tosafot, Bava Kama 70b). But even if we do not admit Rabbi Akiva's application, we might still apply similar logic once an item has reached an area within three tefachim of the ground. Even though lavud in the strict and formal sense may not apply, and we do not consider this object as lying upon the ground, we may still consider it 'grounded' or associated with the ground below, and thus acknowledge the conclusion of the hotza'a process. Deemphasizing the importance of akira and hanacha (while stressing the centrality of the actual transport) may allow for less than actual forms of deposit to constitute the conclusion of the hotza'a process.